How to Sell Open Source

How to Sell Open Source

Article from Issue 206/2018
Author(s):

Marketing FOSS requires some novel approaches compared with proprietary software. We share our experiences.

You've heard this sentence so many times: "Free and open source software like Linux doesn't need a marketing department!" To some extent, there's some truth to it: People learn about FOSS thanks to word-of-mouth and grassroots movements. Many of us discovered Linux from friends and colleagues or from reading about it in online discussions, rather than from flashy TV adverts. We keep using it because we like it, not because our brains are being toyed with. We'll keep using, promoting, and supporting Linux regardless of what happens to the companies developing and using it.

On the other hand, Linux and FOSS exist in a highly competitive (and often unpleasant) market. If you want it to grow, you need to consider the marketing strategies and approaches that the competitors are using and combat the "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" that's often spread by groups and individuals that want to cause FOSS harm. You want to present the software you love in a positive light, even when things are not going so well (e.g., with the Heartbleed security vulnerability).

Marketing open source is something everyone can do, whether it's using social media effectively, creating videos or infographics to explain FOSS, or attending events and giving talks. Over the next few pages, I'll examine some of the traditional approaches to software marketing, look at examples from Firefox and IBM, and provide some tips that you can use.

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